There is still snow on the ground when we awake, but this doesn't
prevent us from going out and enjoying an al fresco brunch with Dave
Francolini and another Northamptonian expat, Transambient Tony Tomblin.
The two of them are working in their own studio on a project which they
call "Dragons". It, by all Dave's account, a dark and emotionally
harrowing affair. Not many pretty tunes, like. Dave has been listening
to a lot of Joy Division. And you can tell how much time that he and
Tony have spent working together in the studio. They practically finish
each other's sentences. We eat ludicrous, fashionable food in the
restaurant courtyard until incipent frostbite sends us scurrying back
to the Chrysler's heated seats. Despite Tony's excellent cartography,
we still get lost on Mooney's street, so we ring Jonny and get him to
"talk us down". Bot quickly notes the differences in our navigational
styles: "Jon does cake shops for landmarks - Pat does pubs!"
Safely back at Mooney's, we relax. Then comes a moment of disbelieving
panic when Jon rings to say that his van has died. Two or three phone
calls later, it turns out that the consummate professional has just let
his bus run out of gas. Relieved, Bot and Mooney take him petrol, while
we get the kit together for sound check.
Getting your equipment into Bristol's Folk House involves climbing
about thirty steep concrete steps, making a U-turn and going back along
a balcony some fifteen yards to the stage door. I do not envy
Applecraft as they tote their enormous bass wardrobe up the stairs.
Inside there is a big, wooden room with a very small vocal PA. On the
walls are posters for a forthcoming show by Julie Felix. The big,
wooden room is strewn with tastefully arranged chairs and tables. It
makes me nervous. Bot is travelling down with Mooney. Steve, Kath and I
load our stuff in, then, while The Craft essay a soundcheck, we head
for the Hatchet Inn.
The Hatchet Inn claims to be one of the oldest surviving pubs in
England, dating back to fifteen-something. It is certainly one of the
hardest pubs to get into. We skirt around its exterior for some time
without finding any door; then, as we round the beer garden (protected
by hefty wrought iron railings), we find ourselves in a small urban
wind tunnel. A short struggle up here and we gain entrance. We sit down
to a peaceful bite to eat and a drink.
Back at the Folk House, the Craft are struggling with the classic "Big
Room - Little PA" interface. Mike Crawford goes whizzing around Bristol
at dizzying speeds to lay his hands on various items of kit. We mill
about, quietly wondering whether we will even be able to attempt a set
through the system that they have here. Eventually we get a soundcheck
and eventually we even have a reasonable sound. Much patience all round
and eventual satisfaction. Midway through our check the Langley
brothers show up, but by the time we have got things right they are
gone again. I set out towards the street to see if I can find them, but
instead I run into Syd and Anna Meats up from Romsey, so then it's back
to the bar for draft Budvar and pancake recipes (this last bit really
floats MC Bot's boat).
Gerard Langley reappears, minus John, who's gone home for a nice night
in. "He's not that sociable really," offers Gerard, not entirely
convincingly. Gerard reveals to us that our soundman is his current
bass player. Oh yes, and the bartender is his guitarist. Truly, we are
all Gerard's ducks. The great Joe Allen stumbles by, bent on
poetry-related mayhem. Gabriel and Joe (no relation) are up from
Exeter. It's a nice vibration.
After a set of gospel dementia from a man whom I only know as Jesse (he
is, to be fair, a rightly celebrated fixture on the Bristol scene and a
phenomenally gifted guitar player), we get onstage at about a quarter
to ten. The room is hardly heaving, but all the chairs are taken up and
there is a reasonable crowd. The fact that they are sitting down in
this nice, big wooden room is pretty disconcerting, mind. Stevie G
later declares this the weirdest gig that he has ever done. "They just
sort of sat there and looked at you." He's right. There's hardly a
rocking atmosphere, and the lighting is pretty funny too. My equipment
is working properly tonight, at least. We deliver our set (the same as
last night) to a reasonable response, but nothing really catches fire.
In a situation like this we miss Agent Wilson and his percussion. The
set is all quite competent, but we can't really get any vibrations
going, making our little noise in this big, wooden room. Still, I can't
say that I didn't enjoy it, honking and blatting away up there. In some
ways it was an improvement on Bath, but we missed having the people
near us, leaping about.
By the way, while we're on the subject of weird gigs, might I just
point out that it was Steve Gordon who, a few short years ago, booked
us into a gig at a roller skating rink, where the audience came at you
downhill at about fifteen miles per hour in an endless stream?
Once our kit is offstage and out of the way, a very portentous
gentleman comes onstage and tells us all to shut up because now there's
going to be a poet and she's going to be very good. I pack my kit bag
in nervous silence, occasionally looking up to see if MC Bot has
succumbed to the giggles yet. Kit safely stowed, we leave the punters
to their culture and make a bee-line for the bar.
By now the place is filling up, and there are lots of good old faces to
be seen. Angelo Bruschini is in the house; Paul Wigens (who plays in a
band called Grand Drive with two Wilson brothers!) is here; Franco and
Tony have turned up, saying nice things about our band; Pat Duff, late
of Strangelove, is here, looking fantastic. Apparently he's been making
a record with Alex Lee. Well, as ideas go, I'd say that was a good one.
To be honest, there's that much of a party feeling going off that I
don't see too much of Applecraft's set. What I do see sounds
surprisingly good, given the technical situation, and goes down well.
An easy home win for The Craft. "Wait till we get you at home," we
At closing time we board the Chrysler. We have decided to head for NN1
directly tonight and wake up in our own beds. We navigate our way out
of Bristol without any difficulty, and as we hit the M32 out of town, I
notice that it is just past one in the morning. To the sounds of the
Fun Loving Criminals and The Stranglers we speed effortlessly through
the night, arriving back at my front door at a scarcely credible
half-past-two. A quick bevvy and we're off to bed ready for tomorrow's